Las Vegas Sun

December 21, 2014

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What’s your name, Baby Jane?

For more than two decades, a teenager found naked, stabbed and beaten in Henderson has been known only as Jane "Arroyo Grande" Doe.

Also known as No. 80-1221, the girl's body was discovered in 1980 near what is now the intersection of Interstate 215 and Arroyo Grande Boulevard in Henderson.

Authorities exhausted leads to find her identity years ago. That doesn't mean, however, that they have stopped trying.

"Our goal in this office is to identify every body," Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said.

The coroner's office has 156 unidentified deaths on the books, including Jane "Cordova" Doe, the toddler found dead in a trash container two weeks ago.

Murphy is part of a group of law enforcement officials, coroners and medical examiners pushing for a national repository of information on such deaths, which the group hopes will help solve more cases.

In 2003 the coroner's office created a Web site that posted information on more than 100 unidentified bodies on it, which has helped identify at least 26 people.

Bill Hagmaier, executive director of the International Homicide Investigators Association and a retired FBI profiler, said giving a name to the unidentified dead is often a low priority for law enforcement agencies. That means families are often left without knowing what happened to missing relatives.

"These unidentified dead bodies are largely going unaddressed," Hagmaier said. "We can safely assume that a majority of these are homicide victims -- so who knows how many murderers are preying on other victims?"

Only a handful of states, including Texas and California, require medical examiners or coroners to send DNA, fingerprints and other information to the FBI.

The Clark County coroner's office is planning to ask the Legislature next year to require that information on the unidentified dead in Nevada is sent to the FBI, Murphy said.

The FBI lists more than 5,500 unidentified bodies across the country, but because only a few states have mandatory reporting laws, Hagmaier believes the actual total is more than 40,000.

"If you are looking for someone who is missing and presumed dead, or if you are a cop looking for a possibly dead fugitive, you will have to check with more than 3,000 coroners across the country," Hagmaier said.

Murphy said a plan for a central repository is to be sent to Congress in the hope of securing funding. The repository could include a Web site with photos and would be available to the public.

Richard Jones, an investigator with the Clark County coroner's office who also works with the cold case unit, has been trying to find the identity of Jane "Arroyo Grande" Doe for more than five years.

One of the best leads came in 2003 when he was searching through databases of missing persons and came across a photo of Rachel Garden, who had been missing since 1980.

Although she looked strikingly similar to the unidentified girl, officials discovered after contacting police and checking dental records that it was not a match.

"Somebody someday will identify her," Jones said.

David Kihara can be reached at 259-2330 or at [email protected]

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